They don’t wear wigs, and they don’t drink tea, but members of the new British Parliamentary Debate club said they do enjoy public speaking.
Co-founders sophomore Matthew Kendrick and junior Duncan Voyles said they founded the British Parliamentary Debate club this year as an alternative to the schedule-intensive existing debate and forensics teams. Although they said they hope to eventually raise funds to compete, the club is scrimmaging among each other, for now.
“I became interested in starting up a parliamentary debate club because I simply could not afford the time commitment of the current program,” Kendrick said. “I was interested in finding an alternative solution, so I could continue growing in the activity that I love.”
Kendrick and Voyles said students can commit as much or as little time as they like to the club, though they prefer attendance at practice once a week to prepare for tournament competition, should funding be obtained.
Instead of competing one-on-one, as in the existing Lincoln-Douglas debate program, speakers in parliamentary debate clash in teams of two. Two teams argue for a resolution, and two teams argue against it, according to the American Parliamentary Debate Association. The teams receive a resolution considering social, political, and economic issues 15 minutes before each round. Possible resolutions might focus on the effects of normalizing relations between the U.S. and Cuba or enshrining gay rights in the Constitution, Voyles said.
Assistant Professor of Politics Adam Carrington is the club’s faculty adviser and said he thinks it is another way to promote conversation at Hillsdale.
“The format of these debates allows for participants to develop their rhetorical skills in a way that allows for the development of cohesive arguments as well as the back-and-forth needed to refine those arguments,” Carrington said. “I hope this new club can provide another distinctive and useful avenue to generate debate and discussion on campus.”
Voyles identified three primary advantages of British parliamentary debate: broad communication, argumentation over social issues, and practice with a standard international debate format.
“British parliamentary emphasizes communication to a broad audience,” he said. “It dispenses with jargon and encourages debaters to argue in plain language they could use with anyone.”
Unlike other forms of debate, British parliamentary also tackles social issues involving the institutions of family and marriage, Voyles said.
“You learn how to advocate your positions on these matters respectfully and persuasively,” he said.
Voyles said parliamentary structure is also the international standard format for debates. Yale, Harvard, Princeton, and Stanford universities as well as international schools have similar teams, Voyles said.
He added that debate also creates strong relationships.
“Most people don’t think of debate as a team sport, but in my personal experience, debate teams are the tightest knit groups of friends,” Voyles said.
The program has not yet obtained funding for tournaments, but it practices on Thursdays from 6 – 9 p.m. on the fourth floor of Kendall Hall.
“Parliamentary debate allows you to get to see people’s minds and character at work as they wrestle with meaningful things in and outside of the round,” Voyles said. “That draws people together.”